The past two times I spoke we talked about the first three parts of coming here to worship and what should be the first three parts your personal and private time with God each day. We talked about the importance of reading the Word of God first, and of asking the Holy Spirit to open your heart and eyes to what you are reading.
Following that we talked about praising God—giving Him the adoration our souls need to give to Him. Following that we talked about confessing our sins——admitting our failures and our desperate need for help.
Today, the third part of worship at church, or time alone each morning with God, should include thanksgiving. It’s one thing to praise and adore God for who He is, but thanksgiving is the personal part of thanking Him for what He has done for you——and what He is about to do!
David said this: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” Psalms 100:4, NIV. Do you? Did you come into His sanctuary with thanksgiving a few minutes? Do you see yourself here as some sort to God or real sacrifice on your part, or is your heart full of joy that you are able to come here and thank Him? Sometimes we don’t give thanks, we give complaints and we sit in church with sullen faces. Wouldn’t you rather sit among people on Sunday morning that are full of thankfulness and gratitude to Him than to sit beside someone that is always complaining that he or she has not gotten their fair share or what they deserve? Friends, even though we can’t have all we want, we ought to be thankful we don’t get what we deserve.
Each and every morning we should thank God for His blessings and reflect upon all that He has done for us. We’re told to “give thanks in all things” (I Thessalonians 5:18, NIV), but I know that it’s hard to thank God when we’re in the middle of a catastrophe, a struggle, or an embarrassing encounter. There are times when I truly to do not feel like thanking God. I would rather sit down and cry some days, or give up and walk away from the call He has placed upon me, or just hide from everyone; including God. But that is the “feeling” I have, and I have learned to not trust or obey my feelings. My natural response, my instinct and my “gut feelings” are simply inappropriate for a follower of Jesus, and need to be ignored. I need to be thankful in all things.
Experience has shown me time and time again that God can be trusted, that He is my friend and guide, and that He does love me far more than I love Him. My days might begin with apprehension, disappointing news, impossible challenges, and deadlines…I am tempted to react naturally and panic. But if I take control of my emotions and decide to thank Him for the challenge, the trouble and the set-back, right at the beginning of my day, I give Him the opportunity to bring about a miracle that will not only increase my faith but permit me to be witness to what a man, committed to and totally believing in God, can be and accomplish.
I am learning first hand how disappointing it is to have people that I love and bless in my own family, that rarely, thank me for the blessings, protection and good things I give them. Every single day I do something good for them that I don’t have to do…I do because I love them, and then, when I realize they are not going to thank them, I remind them of their correct line, I say: “thank you”——and they quickly respond, “oh yeah, ‘thank you”. But I have to remind them—-and it takes away the pleasure of doing or giving them nice things. The truth is, I would do and provide even them more if they were more grateful and if they expressed it more often.
Not God is not a petty as I am, but it’s the nature of God to expect thanksgiving for what He has done, and He’s created us to function at our best, emotionally and spiritually, it we are thankful people. If you’re not a thankful person, you’re no fun to be around, frankly, and you’re missing out on how He can restore your soul and put a smile on your face. It’s been said that, “If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get.” Frank A. Clark. God knows this. Maybe you’re not getting what you ask for because you’re not thanking Him for what He already has provided! Start your day tomorrow with thanksgiving for what He’s already done for you. What happens when we don’t thank Him? Our hearts become hard and dark. Paul spoke about these kinds of folks when he said: “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Romans 1:21
Nobody starts the day looking for trouble or sadness, but no one “sold out to God” can allow self-pity to dominate his/her life when troubles do come—and they will. I am thankful for all the blessings, pleasant moments, kindness, mercy, love, and surprises that I have experienced this year, because I know that next year I might not have those same joys. But those good things I recall, as I thank God each morning, brighten my soul. But believe it or not, I also thank God for every difficult and hard thing that He has permitted, because those things—far more than His blessings—have caused me to grow closer to Him and farther away from the “common man” I used to be.
No, I am not where I want to be yet in my walk with Him. Many are far ahead of me in their determination to allow Him to have total control of their lives. But I am learning to let go of fear and worry by recalling that He has never let me down, He has never permitted anything to fall upon me that did not eventually bring about a blessing, and that I do not need to understand why He allows me to be on the brink of disaster at times… and carefree the next. He knows what He is doing; He knows what lies around the corner; He knows that I am frail, weak, and a babe in the woods. And I know that He loves me like a father loves a small child. I can rest. That’s why we need to give thanksgiving every day! It reminds us of what He has done and what He is able to do for us today and tomorrow. It changes our outlook.
Paul said this: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”(I Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV)
As Christ followers, we have infinite reasons to be thankful. Let me encourage you to shift your eyes away from the chaos of the past couple of years and instead focus on the truths that we are saved, sanctified, sealed, secured, and sustained by the blood of Jesus on the Cross and the power of the Holy Spirit for the glory of the Father. When you focus on Him, no matter what happens, thanksgiving will flow naturally and freely, not just on the fourth Thursday in November, but all day every day!
Look back when you pray, and be grateful….look ahead when you pray and be hopeful….when you get through praying, look around and be helpful.
Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Six things to thank God for every day:
His Providence: He is looking over me every day and I see it! Those things I have dreaded have not come to pass——He’s not let go of my hand. He knows I am frail and He’s been there. I have peace and inner strength knowing that He is totally in charge—-no one can undo His plans and preparations for me and those that I love. Thanks be to God! The Bible says, "The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang: “He is good; his love endures forever.” Then the temple of the LORD was filled with the cloud.” 2 Chronicles 5:13, NIV. He is here, right now, let’s be thankful!
For Health: I realize that many of us here are not in great health—-some because of nothing we’ve done or any substance we’ve abused—-we’re just not healthy. But right now I thank God that I and my sons are in good health—-because I’ve witnessed bad health. And even those of us hurting today can thank Him that it’s no worse than it is. If you are in good health today, you need to give thanks to God.
For Those I Love: Imagine a life without those you love. He’s blessed me with people that I love and some that even love me back. It makes life worth living and gives me a reason to endure the suffering and frustration of staying on planet earth—-I want to bless and care for those that He has given me to love—-and I thank Him for them—-and for teaching me how to love. Paul said, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—I Tim, 2:1
For Trials: Yes, it sounds absurd, but it not only pleases Him to know that we trust Him to hold our hand as we are tested, but to thank Him for the things we learn and wisdom we gain through trials. I know of no hero in Christianity that became a lion for God because of God pampering him or her or keeping them safe from storms and challenges. The safest place for a boat is moored to a pier and safe in a harbor, but boats were made for that—-and neither are we. "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
For Surprises; Aren’t you glad that God does good things for us we don’t expect and don’t deserve? Do you thank Him? Do you wink at Him and let Him know that you know that He was behind that surprise? He loves you and sends you those unexpected affirmations of His love—-thank Him for it! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!" (Psalm 107:1)
For His Incredible Love and Provision for Me. Friends, I thank Him for loving me. I don’t know why, but He does. Thank God He loves me! I am not always sure about my friends, about my relatives or even about my own sons at times, but I thank God that He loves me—and I know it—-and I thank Him for it—-and I am better because I know it, admit and thank Him for it—-EVERY DAY. Do you?